My wife and I recently celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary, so what better way to ring another year of love, life, and other mysteries than on the beautiful white sand beaches of Cancún, Mexico (#chiusdocancun2016)? Though our celebration was a little belated, we decided to go over Memorial Day weekend to take advantage of the Monday holiday so as to minimize the use of our PTO.
I had been to Cancún once, when I was younger, with all of my family, but Rachel had never been. The weather was calling for thunderstorms throughout our stay, but the weather turned out to be perfect throughout! This was Malin's 3rd airplane ride, and 1st trip out of the country!
At one point in time, Southwest Airlines actually had flight itineraries going from GSP to CUN, routing through ATL. But they discontinued that route. So what I had to do was piece together 2 separate itineraries, one from GSP -> ATL, and one from ATL -> CUN. We were supposed to get into ATL around 8:30am Saturday morning, and then our flight to CUN was slated to depart at 11:15am. But it didn't dawn on me until Friday the day before, that we would have to deplane, get all of our luggage, re-check our luggage for the international flight, get back into the security line, and all on one of the busier travel weekends of the year - Memorial Day weekend!
Because of our stash of Southwest points accrued from achieving the Southwest Companion Pass, and their super flexible Rapid Rewards program, I was able cancel our Saturday domestic flight, get our points returned, as well as book us on a last minute flight out to ATL that Friday evening. Options, baby!
The flights from GSP <-> ATL initially only cost us 4,478 points round-trip total (one companion, one lap child), but due to the last minute change, it ended up being 7,087 instead. Our flights from ATL <-> CUN cost us a total of 29,710 points, again 3-for-the-price-of-1. As I mentioned above, Southwest is great as you can get points/cash refunded if there is a cheaper flight. Our initial points costs was 31,230, so as you can see, it behooves you to check back on southwest.com every so often even after you book! The cost breakdown is as follows:
- Our Costs: 36,797 points, $164.18 for taxes & fees (FREE, since we used our Barclay Arrival+ travel credits) + separate lap child fee 2 x $16.46 = $32.92
- If we had paid in cash, it would've been a minimum of (domestic 2 x $92.46 = $184.92) + (international 2 x $509.09 = $1,018.18) = $1,203.10
- Benefits: 2 free checked bags/person, one child gate check item per person
- Downside: No direct itinerary, thereby requiring 2 separate bookings; GSP is on the lowest totem pole when flying to ATL, since it is so close, so we were delayed leaving Friday night, and VERY delayed coming back Tuesday evening. More on this later.
Even though Southwest tends to have more connections and less availability in terms of departure times, it is one of the best low-cost carriers out there. With our Companion Pass, it usually tends to be a no-brainer to fly them, especially now that they've added international destinations such as - Aruba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, Belize - to name a few.
Out-of-Pocket Costs: $32.92
As I noted in the flights section, we had initially planned to leave Saturday, but since our plans changed to Friday evening instead, we needed a place to stay for the night in Atlanta. I had already booked the Sheraton Atlanta Airpot hotel for our Puerto Vallarta trip in the fall, so I figured we could stay there as well.
Sheraton Atlanta Airport Hotel
- Our Cost: 3,000 Starpoints
- If we had paid cash, it would have been $118.24
For Cancun, I had already set my sights on the Hyatt Ziva Cancun due to Mommy Points writing about her family's trip and experience there! And boy, DID IT NOT DISAPPOINT! There is nothing that says relaxation like an all-inclusive resort where you eat all you want, drink all you want, and do nothing all you want (well, kinda. We brought the kid, so you know...)!
When first looking at dates with a CSR over the phone, there weren't any rooms available for Friday night, but there was a Pyramid Suite (1,316 sq. ft.) available Saturday, with regular Garden View (483 sq. ft.) room availability for Sunday & Monday night. Since I was booking on points, the suite cost 40,000 and the Garden View room 25,000 points/night. I booked this straight away, but a couple of weeks later, called back to check on my reservation. At this time, the CSR stated that I had somehow been mistakenly booked into the Pyramid Suite, by the previous CSR, with an invalid promotion. Though I was disappointed, at least they now had a Garden View room available for Saturday night, and they compensated me 15,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points for their error.
On arrival to the hotel, due to my Hyatt Platinum status, we were upgraded to a Dolphin View Master King, which is in the pyramid building, directly overlooking the dolphin swim and main pool areas.
Because Malin goes to bed pretty much at or around 6:30-7pm, coupled with the long travel day, she was definitely ready for bed by 6:30pm. But 6:30pm EST is 5:30pm local Cancún time! This meant that while Mae slept, the both of us sat in the bathroom, playing on our phones, while -- the sun was still up, restaurants still open, and activities were still going on outside. I felt like I had to make it more enjoyable for Rachel and I, especially since this was a wedding anniversary celebration, so I went up to the front desk to see what could be done.
There were no more suites available for the entire duration of our stay in the Pyramid building, however, there were a couple of suites available in the Club Tower - Hyatt Ziva's newest building (if I remember correctly), which also provided a private Club Lounge and pool/beach area. I was given a choice of a suite (though I'm not sure what kind) or the Club Ocean Front Master Suite. Probably because we were already on-site, and the rooms weren't going to be booked, we got a steep steep discount! The difference between the Ocean Front King and the other suite for the remaining 2 nights was only a $30 difference... so go big or go home, amiright? :D
The costs breakdown is as follows:
Dolphin View Master King (598 sq. ft.)
- Our Cost: 75,000 points (3 x 25,000 points/night for Garden View room, but upgraded due to status)
- If we had paid in cash it would have been 3 x $1,0151.90/night = $3,155.70
- But since we only stayed one night, it would have been $1,0151.90
Club Ocean Front Master Suite (1,524 sq. ft.) - 85 sq. ft. less than our house! LOL
- Our Cost: The concierge stated that originally it would have been $400/person/night, but she could do a 50% discount, which came out to $200/person/night, and with the peso/USD exchange ended up being $398.52. (This ended up being FREE, as I used our Barclay Arrival+ travel credits, score!)
- If we had paid in cash it would have been 2 x $1,631.90 = $3,263.80
Out-of-Pocket Costs: $0
Utilizing trusty TripAdvisor reviews, we came across USA Transfers, which is a subsidiary of Entertainment Plus - which provides transportation for tours and activities on the island. They picked us up in a Suburban, had a carseat available for Mae, even though we had communicated that we would bring our own, had water and even cervezas available for the ride! The return ride was in a van, but both ways, it was only the 3 of us.
I mentioned in the flight section, that we were delayed both going and coming back from ATL. We were delayed 30 minutes Friday night, and we had a 3 hour layover before our flight left around 10pm to come back Tuesday night. After getting off the plane from CUN in ATL, we found out that the flight to GSP was delayed to 11pm. Malin was already a mess from not getting her second nap of the day, so we made an executive decision to rent a car and drive back. Good thing we did! We found out the next day that our flight eventually got delayed even later and did not leave ATL until 2:30am!
Our final transportation cost was parking our car at the airport over the weekend.
- USA Travel - $50
- National Car Rental - $56.72
- Parking - $43
Again, thanks to our Barclay Arrival+ travel credits, our only transportation cost was the airport parking, as it was not a redeemable credit!
Out-of-Pocket Costs: $43
The food was all-inclusive at the Hyatt, so no cost there! I will be doing a review of the Hyatt Ziva Cancun hotel itself soon, and will touch on some of the dining options available, and the ones we actually took advantage of! Unfortunately, our biggest expense of the trip came from eating airport food.
- Sheraton Hotel Bar - $14
- Chick-Fil-A - $13.76
- Jersey Mike's - $10.99
- Zaxby's - $15.81
Out-of-Pocket Costs: $54.56
We spent 4 days and 3 nights in Cancún, Mexico, spending a total out-of-pocket cost -- including airfare, hotel, ground transportation, and food -- of $130.48! If we had not had our airline/hotel points and travel credits, our total out-of-pocket costs would have amounted to $5,838.24! INSANE! I also want to again note how we were able to change flights, add a hotel room, and upgrade to that sweet suite, and pay for small miscellaneous fees, all due to points diversification!
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*Photo Cred: Wikipedia